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Mr. Obama: Meet Mr. Benz, not Mr. Ford.

Posted by: David Kiley on February 25, 2009

When President Obama said in his February 24 speech, “And I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it,” I shouted, FACT CHECKER! FACT CHECKER!

Dear Mr. President, historians agree that Karl Benz, the back half of the Daimler Benz company and the last name of those Mercedes vehicles running around, gets credit for inventing the automobile in Germany!

Henry Ford did a helluva job, too, of course. But he is really credited with perfecting the mass production techniques that elevated autombiles from being hand-built advenures in reliability to more affordable and reliable driving machines.

Mr. Benz created the Motorwagen, the first commercial automobile. It was powered by a four-stroke gasoline engine, which was his own design. He was granted a patent for his automobile which was dated January 29, 1886.

So much for Obama’s popularity in Germany.

Reader Comments


February 25, 2009 9:45 PM

Depending how technical you want to get (and you seem to be looking to be looking for a high level of technicality)... you might want to do some research on Nicolas Cugnot.

From Kiley: I will...just like their is some dispute on who invented baseball, the zipper and the telephone, there are disputed here. But no historian I know posits that the car was invented in the U.S.

John Teegen

February 25, 2009 11:50 PM

Knit picking at it's best. The point being that the American automobile industry has been the core of automobile production since 1900. That's close enough to the beginining for me.
We should be proud of what this country and our auto industry has achieved and we should do everything that we can to preserve it.

Paul (Vw)

February 26, 2009 8:59 AM

Nice catch.

You'd think that Mr. Obama's staff would check out his speech in its entirety, even on so minor a part as this.

>>> So much for Obama’s popularity in Germany.

Somehow I think at this point Germany is more interested in the particulars of Detroit's current troubles (ex: potential closing of Opel plant(s) in Germany) and the impact of the bailout (is it somehow anti-competitive?) than this misstatement.

Cameron McNaughton

February 26, 2009 10:18 AM

I hope the people he has appointed to "save" the American automobile industry have a deeper knowledge of the business and a better command of the facts.


February 26, 2009 11:40 AM

OK folks. Lets get to the REAL problem with the economy. The unions which practice extortion have driven the industry into the ground, demanding more and more in return for less and less.

Marwin Wasserl (Neu-Isenburg, Germany)

February 28, 2009 4:28 AM

No harm done. We still love him.

Still the basic ideas came from France.


February 28, 2009 8:55 AM

As mentioned above the article writer is really no more correct than Obama. It depends on what criteria you are using to define automobile and what you consider "inventing the automobile."

What Benz invented was a gasoline powered three wheeled vehicle. There were similar steam and electric powered vehicles invented first.

Americans Charles and Frank Duryea actually invented the first vehicle we would refer to as a car. They also set up the first American auto manufacturing company.

Henry Ford then brought the car to the masses by making it affordable through his production methods and the Ford Motor Company refined the car into something much more like today's car.

So when we are talking about who invented the automobile what do we mean by automobile. A self propelled carriage? In that case it would likely be Frenchman Nicholas-Joseph Cugnot. Do we mean gasoline powered carriage? Then Benz would be correct. Do we mean four wheeled gas powered car? Then it is actually Americans.


February 28, 2009 10:46 AM

Hopefully those guys that undertake this task of saving the auto industry understand what the unions have done to the productivity and effectiveness of the auto manufacturers. -Carl,

Kiley: What's your point? productivity and quality at the plant level is very good...darn near parity with the Japanese.

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